First-time Member of Parliament Derek Sloan is making a bid for leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada by building on an ugly “religious liberty” brand that lionizes anti-LGBTQ views.
The Ontario politician likes to couch it in terms that most Canadians would find easy to swallow: He envisions a nation where “even if we disagree, we can learn to respect each other and work together.”
But when CTV Power Play asked him to talk about his views on LGBTQ people, there wasn’t a lot of respect in evidence.
After arguing that science leaves room for the possibility that sexual orientation is a choice, he defended conversion therapy, saying that the current waves of laws banning the practice are too “broadly defined” and should be amended to allow for therapy aimed at making trans children less trans:
I don’t think anybody should be forced to do anything they don’t want to do. But if somebody wants to receive gender-affirming, or body-affirming counseling when they’re going through a position of “What’s going on with me?” they should be able to have that. We know a lot of kids that go through these feelings grow out of them by the time they’re adults.
In reality, children are usually not given the opportunity to decide what sort of counseling they want: Those choices are left to parents, who may not be aware of the science supporting the conversion therapy ban. (Moreover, his claim about kids growing out of being trans is misleading.)
Sloan said he would not revisit the same-sex marriage debate, leaving marriage equality in place as the law of the land. But he made it clear that he does not support Bill C-16, the legislation that established protection from discrimination based on gender identity and expression, effectively guaranteeing human rights protections for transgender people.
The idea of conversion therapy is inherently disrespectful to LGBTQ Canadians, but at least Sloan was savvy enough to use gentle terminology in his broad appeal to the public, employing the language of choice and common sense. When preaching to the choir, he’s a lot more direct. Addressing notorious Canadian anti-choice outlet LifeSite News, Sloan averred:
This is madness. The Liberals condemn the notion that parents should be able to help a child identify with the body they were born with. ‘Conversion therapy’ is what they call any professional treatment in this area. All the while, the Liberals celebrate giving a child hormones and irreversible plastic surgery as ‘gender affirmation.’
If that seems backwards to you, that’s because it is. In fact, for teenagers suffering from gender dysphoria, it can be a nightmare.
The nightmare of being a trans teenager trying to navigate gender dysphoria is real. But science shows it’s best alleviated by the aforementioned “gender affirmation” (though hormones and surgery are not part of transition care for younger children). And in fact, a major part of the nightmare for many trans teenagers is the possibility that parents and other important adults will disbelieve or disregard their feelings and needs.
So clearly, Sloan is no friend to trans Canadians. But in vowing to vote against Bill C-8, the federal conversion therapy ban, he’s proven himself an enemy to the entire LGBTQ community as well as anyone who favors science-based policy concerning medical issues.
For Sloan, though, all of this is fine — necessary even — in the name of religious liberty. And the desire to protect children from outdated therapies rooted in bigotry is a symptom of an increasing intolerance in Canadian politics:
I interned at the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Canada for a summer, and through that experience I began to be more drawn to politics, and began to be more concerned about the trend of intolerance toward people who hold non-mainstream views. That includes people, obviously, of a religious persuasion, but it also includes others as well.
I saw a solidifying of a politically correct acceptance of mainstream views on so many different things, and I felt that people who didn’t fit in were being systematically excluded and discriminated against in certain ways. I felt that this was problematic and I also felt that the people who were perpetuating that politically-correct mindset were very politically active… I think we need people in leadership who are a little more accepting of the fact that Canada is a diverse country with a variety of different viewpoints and that this is okay.
By appealing to classic Canadian values like tolerance and inclusiveness, Sloan obscures the fact that these “different viewpoints” concern whether scientific evidence should inform government policy, whether queer and trans Canadians should be second-class citizens, and whether children should be subjected to psychological torture if their parents don’t approve of how they see themselves.
The Conservative leadership race has been suspended on account of the current pandemic, which is the right move morally and logistically — and, to his credit, Sloan was one of the ones calling for a pause. The downside, though, is that the move gives him more time to push his anti-LGBTQ agenda under the guise of “tolerance” and “common sense.”
One hopes that Canadians see through it and refuse to support a candidate who wants to promote Canadian unity by eliminating those of us who are different.